Can controversy

Microbrewery owner suggests Boston Beer founder kidnapped by aliens

July 26, 2005 - Boston Beer Company's "Beer Drinkers Bill of Rights" ignited a bit of controversy in the craft beer community.


Oskar Blues Brewery - the nation's first hand-canning microbrewery - suggested Boston Beer founder Jim Koch "may have been kidnapped by aliens, and replaced with a clone." Boston Beer makes the Samuel Adams beers. Oskar Blues distributes Dale's Pale Ale and Old Chubb in cans.

Among the ten rights listed in the new campaign for better beer is this requirement: "Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal."

"The Jim Koch we know and admire wouldn't say such a thing," said Oskar Blues Brewery founder Dale Katechis. "We think it's some cloned, alien being that's running Samuel Adams and spreading this misconception about cans."

Aluminum cans and their lids are lined with a water-based polymer - guarding them from a metal taste. Katechis points out that cans keep beer fresh by fully eliminating the damage from light, and holding extremely low amounts of dissolved oxygen.

On June 29, a New York Times tasting panel picked Dale's Pale Ale as their favorite in a review of pale ales - and pointed out "the biggest problem we encountered was with freshness. ... Ales from well-regarded brewers showed signs of poor handling."

Oskar Blues - located in the small Colorado mountain town of Lyons - boosted production 123% in 2005, growing to 3,500 barrels. Over a dozen US microbrewers have followed Oskar Blues Brewery into the microcanning niche. "Craft brewers and consumers have embraced the can in Canada," said Kersten Kloss, of Cask Brewing Systems, the Canada-based maker of Oskar Blues Brewery's microcanning gear. "The same thing is happening now in the U.S."

Don Russell of the Philadelphia Daily News further pointed out that the Bill of Rights decreed that "beer should be served at 35 degrees to 42 degrees for maximum flavor" - a temperature far too cold for ales, and many Samuel Adams beers.

In fact, on July 20 Koch offered beer serving tips in the Wall Street Journal, and the Journal wrote: "Before serving any cold beer, he takes it out of the fridge and allows it to warm up on the counter for five or 10 minutes. Beer that is too cold loses its complexity, he says."

Although Oskar Blues used the "Beer Bill of Rights" for a little fun, Katechis made his respect for the industry leader apparent. "I'd like Jim to come to Lyons, do some mountain biking, recharge, and see our canning operation. I'd like to him to bring some Utopias (the world's strongest beer) with him," he said.